Choki Wangmo

Unless the Parliament amends the Forest and Nature Conservation Act 1995, works and human settlement minister Dorji Tshering said Shingkhar-Gorgan road won’t materialise.

National Council (NC) member from Lhuentse, Tempa Dorji, during the question-answer session at NC yesterday enquired on the status of the pledged national highway.

The minister said that the discussions on Shingkhar-Gorgan had stretched for more than two decades without any decisions. “Since 2008, there were 15 discussions on the topic. It is stale.”

“If we are to make any significant development, the lawmakers need to amend some of the clauses in the forest and nature conservation act,” he said. The minister sought NC’s support when the Act is tabled for amendment in future.

Experts concluded that construction of the road was environmentally not feasible, hence environmental clearance (EC) was not granted by authorities concerned.

EC was not approved because of the 67km road, about 18km falls within the core area of Phrumsengla Park and might divide the park into two if the road passes through the park, the minister said.

Further, the construction was environmentally infeasible because about 70 percent of the road has to be built through marshy areas and steep slopes, and would be prone to natural disasters.

Shingkhar-Gorgan road is expected to shorten the distance between Lhuentse and Bumthang by 100km. As of now, the distance between Lhuentse to Ura in Bumthang is about 207 kilometres.

However, Lyonpo said that too much discussion on the proposed road had given false hope to communities in the eastern dzongkhags and developments was delayed by about 15 years.

For instance, Lyonpo said that 110km road from Ura to Lingmithang had not been maintained with the assumption that it would remain idle once Shingkhar-Gorgan road opens. Similarly, about 70km road from Gangola to Lhuentse was also not maintained.

Member of Bumthang, Nima, said that discussion on Shingkhar-Gorgan road had negatively impacted development in Bumthang as well. He said that a stretch of road from Shingkha to Ura was not been maintained with the expectation that Shingkhar-Gorgan road would be constructed soon.

Nima said that the road proposal should not be used by politicians to woo voters if it was impossible.

Meanwhile, the government is looking for other alternatives which include constructing a road through Yongkola to Dorjilung in Lhuentse. “Once the construction of two bridges in Dorjilung is complete, the road will be open and it’ll shorten the distance by 30km on the Lhuentse to Thimphu road.”

The government would also start maintenance of Gangola-Lhuentse and Ura-Lingmithang roads but the minister did not specify when although surveys are ongoing.